Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning.
After having been already released for both the Nintendo 3DS and PC, SteamWorld Dig has finally made its way to two of Sony’s consoles, The PS Vita and PlayStation 4. SteamWorld Dig was originally launched on the Nintendo eShop last year, and to great applause. I played the original and enjoyed it, but due to the style of the 3DS, I often found it uncomfortable to play for long periods of time. So when the developers Image & Form Games announced that it would be coming to both the PlayStation 4 and PS Vita, I was really looking forward to it.
Thankfully, these versions of the game have been treated with great love and care. The visuals of both versions have been given an overhaul, making the most of the HD output of the PS4 and the wonderful OLED screen of the Vita. The controls are intuitive and the PS4 version even makes good use of the touchpad on the DualShock 4.
The player takes on the role of Rusty, a robot who has been summoned by his Uncle Joe to come claim a mine in the old west town of Tumbleton. Upon Rusty’s arrival, he discovers that his Uncle has sadly passed away and taken the secrets of the mine with him. Armed with Joe’s Pickaxe, Rusty must dig into the depths of the mine and uncover what Joe found, and hopefully bring the dying town of Tumbleton to life again.
The game breaks the player in gently; using the Pickaxe will allow Rusty to dig deeper in to the ground, creating a route downwards and also uncovering precious minerals. But it isn’t just the earth beneath Rusty’s feet that the player will have to deal with. Rusty’s lamp will only hold so much oil, and as time goes on the mine will get darker. However, a quick trip up to the surface will automatically refill the oil meter. Rusty will need to make several trips back up to the surface, as that is where he will sell his collected minerals for coins. These coins can then be used to upgrade his equipment, make the Pickaxe stronger, and increase his health, water and oil meters. These will be essential as the player travels deeper and encounters the many dangerous subterranean inhabitants.
Not only can Rusty upgrade his gear via the town of Tumbleton, but he will also learn new abilities as he discovers new areas in the mine, – such as running faster, jumping higher and not taking damage when he falls.
The rate at which the player unlocks these upgrades and abilities is perfectly paced, meaning that there is always a sense of progression. Keeping the game interesting and adding a slight ‘Metroidvania’ feel, some areas can’t be accessed until certain abilities have been unlocked.
SteamWorld Dig also includes one of my favorite Sony trends, Cross-Buy. This means that if you buy it on either device, it will be available to play on both, at no extra charge. This is something that a lot of indie developers have been taking advantage of when releasing games on PlayStation platforms. But unfortunately, there is no Cross-Save functionality. This meant that I ended up picking the PS Vita as the device I played the game on, and with the exception of the requirement of this review, never went back to the PS4 version. A shame to be sure, but something that could be resolved in a future patch.
What’s the reason for me preferring the Vita version? I just felt that it was the perfect platform for this game. Although the controls are almost identical, they felt better on the handheld. Also, the game is great for quick bursts of play, which is perfect for the Vita. It’s not that the PS4 version is inferior, because isn’t. The graphics are super sharp and the game plays exactly the same. It was just my personal preference. At least the player will get to choose without buying the game twice.
SteamWorld Dig on the PS Vita and PS4 is a wonderful achievement; great game play, beautiful to look at and with a sense of humor. Bringing it to the Sony stables was a great move on the part of the developers, and one that will hopefully prove fruitful for them.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.